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Any+singular/plural: If you have any <problem/problems>

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Snappy_is_here, Jul 2, 2010.

  1. Snappy_is_here Senior Member

    Kobe, Japan
    Japanese
    Which should I use, "any problem" or "any problems" in the following sentence?
    (A friend of mine looks worried.)

    If you have any problem/problems, please let me know.

    I am confused with the use of "any" + a singular/plural noun.
     
  2. soccergal Senior Member

    English - US
    If you have any problems, let me know.

    Normally you would use any + plural noun. What is confusing is that many nouns are "non-countable". So, I would ask if you have any cookies (countable) or any milk (non-countable).
     
  3. teatom

    teatom Senior Member

    Bogota Colombia
    German, fluent in English and Spanish
    Of course some or any can be used with plural or singular nouns (were there any cars / was there any traffic?) Only Much /little or many / few is restricted to either sing or pl.
     
  4. soccergal Senior Member

    English - US
    True, but it is still simpler to think in terms of countable/non-countable. Yes, cars is a plural noun and traffic is singular. But I have three cars in my driveway. Can I find three traffics on the highway?
     
  5. Snappy_is_here Senior Member

    Kobe, Japan
    Japanese
    No, you can't, because "traffic" is uncountable.

    How about the following cases?

    Have you read any novel/novels recently?
    Have you read any good novel/novels recently?
     
  6. soccergal Senior Member

    English - US
    Snappy, technically, you have a point (a good one, actually). In this sentence structure I would say that "novels" is idiomatically preferable in both sentences, but the second sentence would be grammatically correct. In a different structure (Any novel by Austen is worth reading) then you could definitely follow "any" with any singular noun.
     
  7. Snappy_is_here Senior Member

    Kobe, Japan
    Japanese
    I'm getting it.

    Any boy who has common sense (= any type of person who has common sense, and the number of boys is not the main point) would not do that.

    I don't like my daughter to go out with any boys (= any number of boys, and the type of boys is not the main point).
     
  8. soccergal Senior Member

    English - US
    It's tricky, isn't it? But yes, I think you've got it. In the second sentence, you don't want your daughter going out with boys, period. If you wanted to single out a type of boy, you could say I don't like my daughter to go out with any boy with a tattoo.
     
  9. Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    SW London
    British English
    A 1. If you have any problem let me know
    2. If you have (any) problems let me know
    3. If you have a problem let me know
    4. If you have problems let me know


    B1.If there's any problem, let me know.
    2. If there are any problems, let me know.
    3. If there's a problem, let me know.
    4 If there are problems, let me know

    In both these sets, 'any' is optional. These are affirmative statements and the use of any is emphatic: it means "any at all, however small"



    The sentences below are questions.

    Have you read any novel/novels recently?

    Have you read any novel recently sounds most unnatural. The stress would not normally be needed on any. Have you read a novel recently is far more likely.

    A dialogue might go like this

    Have you read a good novel/any good novels recently?
    No, I haven't read any[novels] ( = not one at all/none/not a single one )


    This is most likely as clear as mud. It is one of the most complicated areas of English grammar, to my mind, being a mix of rules, usage and idiom, and subtleties of meaning.

    Hermione
     
  10. teatom

    teatom Senior Member

    Bogota Colombia
    German, fluent in English and Spanish
    I am really so upset that teaching goes on and on without considering if some ways are totally obsolete. I have been a teacher for 20 years and NONE of my students got it right using the concepts of COUNTABLES or MASS WORD/UNCOUNTABLES. Is money countable??? Is time countable??? according to the grammar rules THEY ARE NOT. but everyone is counting time and money day by day. So why are we following these stupidities? The best way ist to say: with ending -s we use many /few and without (except people, wo/men and children etc) we use little / much.
    As said before: some / any is not restricted to pl/sing!!!
     
  11. coolieinblue Senior Member

    Seoul,Korea
    Korean
    I agree with Hermione.

    I feel subjunctive mood at 'any + singular coutable noun'.

    I try putting 'single' before the noun to find out which usage is correct.

    Any single boy who has common sense would not do that.


     
  12. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    It's an interesting rule. If you know that the word has an -s ending version this rule works. If I come across the word "traffic", though, and I haven't used it before, how would I know I shouldn't say "traffics"? Your rule only works if I already know that there is a plural of the word that ends in "s" (or, conversely, know that it doesn't).

    Knowing that a word doesn't have a plural form or knowing that a word is uncountable sounds like the same amount of prerequisite knowledge to me.

    It also won't apply to those slippery words in English that have a form with and without an "s", such as "fruit / fruits". "I have five fruit on the table" is referring to five pieces of fruit on the table that may be the same fruit or different fruits. "I have five fruits on the table" means that I have five different kinds of fruit on the table. I am not stating how many of each kind of fruit is on the table.

    As Hermione says, it's complicated and no single rule will undo its complication.

    I disagree. Everyone is counting dollars / Euro / yen every day, but no one is counting moneys/monies (well, that's another conversation when dealing with currencies). We don't say "I only have eleven moneys in my pocket." The same is true for time. People count hours, minutes, seconds rather than times (when keeping tracking of time). We don't say "I worked eight and a half times today." Countable / uncountable is not obsolete, in my opinion. It may be a difficult concept, but it still applies to this day.

    Take, for example, "a lot of time" as in "I don't have a lot of time today" (uncountable) and "A lot of/Many times I get upset when people use countable and uncountable" (countable). Both are valid. There is an "s" ending on one and not the other. The concept in the first sentence is uncountable and countable in the second. You can't put "times" in the first sentence nor can you put "time" in the second sentence. No matter how you look at it, it's complicated.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2010
  13. teatom

    teatom Senior Member

    Bogota Colombia
    German, fluent in English and Spanish
    You exactly corroborate my rule: Time has no -s and so you say much / little time, but times has an -s so you say many/few times. (cf. money /coins) The concept of countable land uncountable might be theoretically correct, but no student goes the length and sits down to ponder if s/he can count coffee or cups. But still you can order 3 cofeeS at Starbucks. So is coffee countable or not?

    Referring to your example FRUIT, we have PLURALE TANTUMS (which use no -s but ARE plurals: police, sheep, aircraft, fish, próduce, staff, data) and therefore use many/few. And SINGULARETANTUMS (which use -s but are singulars: news, means, series, species, headquarters, United States, roadworks, worries, logistics etc) and use much/little. Sorry to confuse you and Hermionie.
     
  14. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod

    I don't think we're confused, Teatom. Your second paragraph makes it clear that even your simple rule is not so simple.
     
  15. coolieinblue Senior Member

    Seoul,Korea
    Korean
    I agree with JamesM.

    People in some cultures like me even can't understand the difference between many and much.
     
  16. teatom

    teatom Senior Member

    Bogota Colombia
    German, fluent in English and Spanish
    Well. it IS simple when you stick to the -s rule. My students at least are very happy with this explanation. The most frequent exceptiona are: PEOPLE, (WO)MEN and CHILDREN. In lessons one does not talk too often about fish or aircraft, right? OK, stay in touch.
     

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